Haunting accounts of meetings with spiritualists and mediums will be shared when Battle Creek native Mira Ptacin talks about her new book, "The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna" on Dec. 3, in Battle Creek.

The book depicts the women of Camp Etna—an otherworldly community in the woods of Maine that has, since 1876, played host to generations of spiritualists and mediums dedicated to preserving the links between the mortal realm and the afterlife.

Willard Library and Kellogg Community College's Morris Library are sponsoring Ptacin’s talk at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at KCC’s Binda Performing Arts Center, 450 North Ave. The doors to the center will open at 5 p.m., and the auditorium doors will open at 6 p.m.

That evening, Ptacin said she plans to read an excerpt from the book, open up the room for a Q&A, and then really open up the room to a discussion of beliefs in life after death and beliefs in spirits.

A limited number of copies of “The In-Betweens” will be for sale at the talk. After she speaks, Ptacin will sign copies of her book. Light refreshments will be available.

“I think program attendees will be thrilled and captivated by her investigative storytelling,” said Matt Willis, Willard reference and adult services department head. “Mira is an accomplished writer whose previous book, ‘Pour Your Soul,’ received rave reviews.”

Ptacin’s second book, which was released on Oct. 29, has received positive reviews from The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal and Library Journal.

“The book provides a fascinating look at spiritualism and occult practices in late 19th-century America,” Willis said. “If you’re into communicating with the other side, table tapping, and exploring what it means to believe in ghosts, you’ll want to be at this event.”

In-Betweens -Willard Library
In-Betweens -Willard Library

“Come explore the history of Camp Etna, a unique place that has been in operation for almost 150 years,” added Dr. Michele Reid, dean of institutional effectiveness and library services at KCC. “Mira’s work tells the stories of the camp’s leading practitioners, who have claimed special powers to cross the boundaries between this world and the next.”

Ptacin said in an email, “It just feels really good to return to the place where I was raised—because I am who I am because of the people and experiences I've had in Battle Creek. Battle Creek was my education; it made me who I am, and I just want to make my city proud.”

“I'm very thrilled and humbled to be welcomed back to my hometown with such love,” she added.

She credits several local teachers for playing a part in her success as an author.

·         “Jim Butler was my music teacher (and still is a close friend) — music has incredibly, deeply taught me how to write

·         “Jim Bundy, Battle Creek Central, introduced me to beautiful literature

·         “Mrs. Phelps was my orchestra teacher and nurtured my love for music

·         “Charlie Payson helped me tremendously by helping me pass my math courses and not fail out of school (!)

·         “Mr. Rasmussen gave me my first favorite book: ‘Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’”

When asked about the great response to her book, Ptacin answered, “There are several factors in this: 1. I have a great publisher, and with it, a wonderful, bright, hardworking, lovely, and smart publicist. Whenever a book is published, an advanced review copy is sent to different media outlets. With it, a cover letter composed by the publicist that explains the book's content, as well as why it’s worth reading (and reviewing). I give credit to my publicist for conjuring up an appealing cover letter, and noticing why this book is timely, interesting and worth anyone's time.

She continued, “Also, I believe ‘The In-Betweens’ is timely, interesting and worth reading—not because I wrote it, but because the history of Spiritualism (it’s really nuts!), as well as the lives of the spiritualists at Camp Etna. I believe that we are all searching spiritually for something, and right now, given our current political climate, and the way humanity has really just been destroying the environment, we are really now urgently searching for something more than what is just in front of our eyes.

“That's why I think this book about alternative ways of living — of living in accordance to one’s intuition—is really ringing a bell to people right now. Perhaps that's why it's getting a lot of press. (And also, maybe I really am a good writer, too? That's a subjective question!)”

The NPR reviewer said, “At its best ‘The In-Betweens’ captures its own chaotic energy — a flawed community of colorful characters whose generational or ideological differences can usually be smoothed over in the name of healing, belonging, and walking your cat.”

“She is on a quest to understand the peculiar nature of belief, the power of faith — pure, unquestioning and even unreasoning — to shape the way we see the world around us,” a New York Times reviewer wrote.

Library Journal called the book, “A colorful, quirky and ultimately moving look at a misunderstood faith and the iron-willed women who continue to sustain it.”

Ptacin has written for NPR, Guernica, New York, Tin House, and Vice, among other publications. She teaches memoir writing to women at the Maine Correctional Center and lives on Peaks Island, Maine.

The program will be free and open to the public.

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